CSotD: Monday Miscellany

Might as well start with the one for which I have no answer. Patrick Blower explores the future of the British Museum, assuming they give in to demands that looted artefacts be returned.

My immediate reaction is that important artefacts should, indeed, be returned, but there’s nothing wrong with exhibiting a coin or a pot, which, in turn, raises the question of whether anyone would come to a museum to see random coins and pots.

Which, in turn, raises the question of whether, in a world of video and affordable airline tickets, museums have outlived their usefulness. That I have a couple of answers to:

One is that it is elitist, because, while more people can travel around the world now than was true 30 or 40 years ago, there are still plenty of people who cannot afford to, and TV documentaries can only do so much.

To which I would add that, if museums only displayed their own artefacts, you’d have to go to a lot of places to get a sense of the world. Even if you could afford the airline tickets, you couldn’t afford the time.

The other is that, as with zoos, you have to see what else they’re doing. People complain about zoos because the animals are captive, which is certainly true, but you have to recognize the awareness they can raise, as well as the steps good zoos take to stimulate, entertain and comfort their animals.

You also have to look at what else the good zoos, and good museums, do in terms of setting up programs to work with countries of origin.

For museums, it can mean both curating and hosting traveling exhibits of those one-of-a-kind pieces. Art museums have done this for decades; other types of museums are catching up.

But the Elgin Marbles must go back, and museums need to ponder what they keep, not simply in terms of value or national importance. I saw a Peruvian mummy in a museum display once, and I doubt that was what she or her family wanted. I’m sorry it was there and I’m sorry I saw it.

Morten Morland offers an easier problem to understand, if no easier to solve.

It’s not that Charlie should hand out his castles as low-income housing, but that, as monarch, he represents a class that does not see and does not understand how the other half lives. It’s not just the Royals, and it’s certainly not confined to the UK.

When Bobby Kennedy visited the Mississippi Delta, he was bowled over by the revelations, and he shouldn’t have been. It is as Marley said to Scrooge: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

It’s not a refusal to look. It’s an inability to look. It’s a life in which it never occurs to you to look.

It’s Katherine Mansfield’s brilliant short story in which the people in the big house fear that a death among the workers in the village will dampen the mood for their garden party.

The Guardian is starting a series on the US housing market, and they begin with an info-graphic packed examination of changes.

Prices have tripled over the past 22 years, and average incomes have not. As they note, there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how much house you can afford, but “historically, the average home cost about 2.6 times the median income – a ratio real estate agents often cite as a threshold for affordability.”

It’s up to 5.3 now, putting payments way over the 30% of income recommended.

Nor are renters doing much better, since even honest landlords must contend with rising housing prices.

Which brings us to Dave Granlund’s cartoon. It left me scratching my head, because, while I didn’t go into dollars-and-cents with my boys, I was open about what we could afford and what we couldn’t, and they responded by working towards becoming independent.

If that’s your kid in the cartoon, you screwed up.

On the other hand, I’ve seen cheerful, “don’t worry, be happy” items about the number of Millennials and even Z’s who own their own homes.

I guess it depends on how you define “owning.” I doubt many of them are free-and-clear, of course, but that Guardian piece points to a secondary debt, of honor if not of money:

There is a disturbing circularity to this, since having your house at least close to being paid off is one part of retirement planning. Taking out a second mortgage — a third if you helped with college — is generous but hardly cost-free.

It also raises an interesting wrinkle in the discussion of waiting to have kids until later in life. Robert de Niro will have to live to 95 to see his new daughter graduate from high school, but, if he had a normal income, he’d be far into triple digits before he paid off her college costs.

And gave her the down payment for a house.

Don’t wait until you’re 79.

Juxtaposition of the Day

The only people I see when I take my dog to the park are retirees, who have all the time in the world, nurses, who work on a varying schedule, and people who work from home and bust their dogs loose between meetings, in lieu of coffee breaks.

Susan needs to establish better expectations, because I worked from home for the last 10 years of my working life and it’s all in the expectations: We combined e-mail and phone calls, but the only times my personal life became relevant was if they called with a problem when I was out with the dog, which added 15 minutes while I got back to my desk. Friendly hello and goodbye chat, sure, but all business in the middle.

Though once I was done for the week and halfway to Portland when my cell phone rang with a crisis. I pulled off the highway, found a place with wi-fi and whipped out my laptop. I had to tell the personal story, but they only laughed in Denver once the problem had been solved. In fact, I think I gained some points on that one.

OTOH, Alex outlines a real problem, because WFH allows companies owned by vulture capitalists to abandon their big, beautiful downtown buildings.

Please excuse me while I weep for the banks that own them.

13 thoughts on “CSotD: Monday Miscellany

  1. Repatriation is a difficult and complicated issue, as illustrated by your Peruvian mummy anecdote.

    Whose story is that museum telling? Showing us something about the many paths that humans have walked is a valid and important task. That mummy’s family, were they able to comment, might be very pleased to have their ancestor serve such a purpose.

    1. Apparently spell check was taking a coffee break. I was thinking of responding too.

    2. A-l-t-e-r-n-a-t-e s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g. Alternate spelling.

      But all jokes aside, “artefact” is the British English spelling (e.g., shoppe, colour, realise, etc.) Your mic drop has left you exposed. Do your research before you zing, please?

      1. Where’s the comic from? The Daily Telegraph, which is published in London, the one in England.

        If England is no longer in Britain, I apologize for having not done my research before saying a British cartoon got a British spelling. I knew it was no longer in Europe, but I guess I’d missed that one.

        The Scots and Welsh must be delighted!

  2. NYT: “New York City’s vacant office space could fill 26.6 Empire State Buildings. Empire State Building 2,800,118 sq. ft. In downtowns from Chicago to Los Angeles, the physical layout of the 20th-century city is clashing with the new economy.’

  3. Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial
    Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
    But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
    You can tell by the way she smiles
    See the primitive wallflower freeze
    When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
    Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeez, I can’t find my knees”
    Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
    But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

  4. To be fair to Susan and Sam in “Between Friends,” in an earlier strip Susan was giving advice to Sam on parenting little kids, so they have discussed it before.

  5. The Egyptians believed that to remain “alive” the names of the dead had to be preserved, as well as their mummies. King Tut’s name was erased from many inscriptions, as was that of his father Akenaten. Of course, those names have been spoken plenty of times since, keeping them alive according to their own beliefs. Museums have a role.

    A lot of zoos now participate in species conservation programs that include breeding endangered animals, not just to a captive group, but sharing animals among zoos to keep the gene pool varied. Some of these animals are confined to a zoo but in the process of being eliminated in their native environs. And the old iron bar cages of the zoos of my childhood are long gone for more open, realistic spaces. The goal is to repopulate some of the wild with these captive bred animals.

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